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Viscount Bledisloe: I said that that surely means that one could be given a copy of the indictment with which the person is charged after he has been arrested. We are concerned with an indictment that a foreign country brought against him.
I turn to the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, about tidiness. In principle, one is always suspicious about whether tidiness is a sufficient reason because tidiness in itself does not necessarily convince one. I do not feel uncomfortable about arguing the case about consistency with domestic procedure because, by having the arrangement four square with domestic procedure, one reduces the risks of procedural mistakes. The last thing that one wants to happen is that someone, at probably one of the most crucial stages, manages to evade arrest for nothing more than a procedural mistake.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: Every time, in almost every argument, the Minister says that the consequence of not doing this is that some terrible terrorist or murderer will not be brought to justice. Each time he uses that argument, he should invert it and say, "What is the risk that an innocent person will be falsely accused?". He should do that each time.
Lord Filkin: I will not always do so because that would be wearisome to the Committee. I made the point involving terrorists and murderers because the current pressure of extradition bears at this end of the pitch for all sorts of practical reasons. We are talking about serious crime and international crime in the vast majority of cases. Having said that, I thought that in the last point I made I also signalled that I was alive to the civil liberties issue about the risk of exposure of the person through their beinghow shall I put it?wrongly arrested by the police. What, for example, would be the consequences if a venial offence were involved and as a result of a procedural mistake by the arresting officer, they had been arrested when they should not have been? The consequences of that are set out pretty clearly in the legislation. They would have a pretty fast right of redress and escape. One is always balancing the issue of potential seriousness about not addressing international crime against the risks to an individual of an error. It appears to me that the error is relatively minor in these circumstances.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: But surely the pattern of extradition in the past is not necessarily the pattern of extradition in the future. The characteristic of the Bill is that extradition will now be possible for offences that carry sentences of as low as one year's imprisonment.
Viscount Bledisloe: The point that the Minister made in response to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, could perfectly easily be dealt with merely by saying that failure automatically to give a copy does not entitle him to automatic discharge. I appreciate that for a terrorist to go free because the policeman did
Another problem is that if one does not get a copy until one gets to the judge, the judge's job is to decide whether the person brought before him is the person in respect of whom the warrant was issued. If the man has not seen what is in the warrant, how on earth can he have there witnesses about who he is and so on to demonstrate that he is not the person described in the warrant? If he has not seen it before he gets to the judge, he is deprived of that right.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Would it save time before the Minister responds if I came back briefly on his very helpful reply? It appeared that it was scraping the bottom of the barrel and does not stand up to examination in terms of what happens in real life. Let us suppose that the procedure has not inadvertently been followed by the police. The man or woman would then go in front of the district judge, someone takes the point and he is discharged. What would happen? He would immediately be re-arrested. There would be no cordon sanitaire that must be observed by which he must be given 24 hours' start. That appeared to happen in Ireland sometimes in this regard. If he were immediately re-arrested, the procedure would be correctly followed because the point would have been made and everyone would know where the mistake happened. This really does deserve to be thought about again.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I have been listening to the debate and confess that I have not yet been convinced by the Minister that the European arrest warrant should not be different from a warrant in domestic circumstances. This is different. It will not be a domestic arrest warrant; it will be a European arrest warrant. It will be exercised over a much wider area. I cannot understand why it cannot be conceded on this particular point that a person does not have to request a copy of the warrant to be shown it.
I would have thought, under the circumstances of the Bill, and given the desire of the Government to make it acceptable, that this is an amendment they would be glad to accept. It would allay people's fears as to what could happen. To relate it to domestic arrangements is patently absurd. The whole thing is completely different from what we have been used to. We have never had a European arrest warrant. This is something new. Why do we have to remain entirely with the domestic situation? This is a new provision which affects a much wider area than the United Kingdom. Why then, in this particular piece of legislation do we not insert something that, so far as I can see, every Member of this Grand Committee is in favour of, except the Ministers and those who sit behind them?
I wish that the Minister would listen to my noble friend Lord Wedderburn and say when he sees the word "resist", which often appears in Ministers' briefs. I know because I have been a Whip on a number of committees in the House of Commons and they always put "resist" at the top. I want the Minister to resist the resist. It seems to me that if he does that he would please the Committee and we would get on very much faster.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Very briefly, if the Minister is to carry out his instructions to resist and is to use the argument of tidiness and that what happens should be that with which the constable is familiar, has he checked that the procedure is exactly the same for a Scottish constable? If he has not, could he do so, because the argument will not stand up if it is not so.
Lord Filkin: I clearly have considerable dissent from the Committee on this issue. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, it has not been my practice to blindly and obdurately dig in irrespectively. I believe that the Committee process serves a purpose, which is sometimes to identify issues which we have not always thought of. I say that genuinely. That has been my approach to legislation.
I shall go through some of the points raised and then conclude. The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said that in future we will be extraditing for offences which attract a penalty of one year's imprisonment. That has been the case since 1870. All I can say is what is the nature of the bulk of extradition cases currently. The noble Lord is right; that may change in future with a simpler system but our expectation would be that it will still tend to focus on the most serious offences. Even with a more simplified procedure it is not simple to find someone abroad, trace them and to go through the process. But it will not serve a purpose if I debate that point in detail.
If the person is wrongly arrested, they must be brought before the court as soon as is practicable, where the error will be notified and the person discharged. The point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is that if no copy is then available they will not automatically be released. I am not certain that I have correctly seized that point. I shall have to double check that when I reflect on reading Hansard.
The fundamental point is that we are referring at this stage to the warrant for the arrest when the real issue is whether the person will get a copy of what they are charged with. That is the fundamental issue. We have already signalled, in what I said earlier, that they will be given a copy of what they are charged with.
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